SS Mosel and insurance fraud

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Alexander Keith, Jr., image found on Wikipedia

On December 11, 1875 a horrible explosion occurred at the dock in Bremerhaven, Germany, leaving over 80 people dead and many more maimed and injured.  The story of how this came to be starts with a man named Alexander Keith, Jr., also known by the alias William King Thomas.

Keith was born 1827 in Scotland and moved to Halifax, Nova Scotia when he was a boy.  As a young man he worked briefly for his uncle, Alexander Keith, who was a well-known and influential man in Halifax having served as mayor and owning a popular brewery, Alexander Keith’s.  The brewery still operates to this day.  When the Civil War broke out in the United States Keith saw an opportunity and aligned himself with the Confederacy although he seized every chance to take advantage of both the North and the South.  He was a ruthless man and eventually ran off with a chambermaid and investments worth $1 million.  His victims hired a detective to hunt him down, causing Keith to have to move further west until he eventually reached Highland, Illinois.  Keith married and settled down for a short time until the law came calling in December of 1865.  When he had the chance, he and his wife fled to Germany where they lived the high life.  But, as it usually happens, money ran out and so Keith had to come up with a scheme to get more.   Read more

Return from conservation

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Painting pre-conservation

Last year I posted about winning money from the Bronze Door Society to conserve my favorite painting in the collection.  Well, I’m happy to say that the painting has now returned from conservation and looks amazing!

Notice how dark the painting was.  It’s difficult to see, but there is a tear on the pyramid, just above the second smoke stack.  The canvas was loose on the stretcher and part of the artist’s signature (as well as people and camel feet) were wrapped around the bottom edge, obscuring them.   Read more

Continuing work with the Ship Models

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Work continues on the exhibition for the 50th anniversary of the Hampton Roads Ship Model Society, with models having arrived every day for the past two weeks.  We have almost reached the finish line though with only a couple more models set to come in.  Although anyone can walk through and see the work we’re doing, the exhibition officially opens August 5th and will remain open until February 11th, 2018.  The models are so lovely and it’s amazing the amount of work and skill that goes into making them.  The model makers clearly have a tremendous amount of patience.

There are a lot of models that people will recognize in this show, including America, CSS Virginia, USS Monitor, and SS United States.  We get a lot of questions about our model of SS United States, which is currently in storage, so it will be great to have one on display again.  There are two models of America (where the America’s Cup race gets its name), which make an excellent contrast to the AC72 displayed in the gallery next door.  It shows you just how far technology has taken us.   Read more

Ship Models on Display

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Models by Lee Martin

This week we’ve started installing our newest exhibition, a display of about 50 models from the Hampton Roads Ship Model Society.  It will open August 5th and we will be spending the next couple of weeks receiving the models and putting them into their appropriate cases.  This was the previously the location of the A to Z exhibition, which featured a wide variety of interesting artifacts in our collection.  It’s always exciting when a gallery is changed out!

More to come as more models come in!   Read more

Behind the Scenes Tour

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Very rarely am I asked to give behind-the-scenes tours as Jeanne and Cindi usually do them, but this past Friday I got to take a small group of Ukrainian journalists on one.  They were here as part of a media partnership program with The Daily Press.  You can read more about that HERE.

Wanting to pull something from their country, I searched and searched and was only able to come up with one piece, a print of Odessa, which actually shows the city at a time when it was part of Russia.   Read more